Photos by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
I’m not entirely certain, but it seems likely that no college wrestler had ever before competed in November, lost every match he wrestled, then come to the CKLV and beaten three top-10 foes on his way to lifting the trophy. This weekend, Alec Pantaleo (Michigan), who had lost his last five official college matches, not to mention an All-Star Classic defeat at the hands of BJ Clagon (Rider), dating back to the 2016 NCAA tournament, did just that. It began with a pin of seventh-ranked Clay Ream (North Dakota State) in just 1:09 during which Pantaleo showcased the incredible quickness that makes him so very dangerous. In the semis, the Michigan junior scored four takedowns against fourth-ranked Tyler Berger (Nebraska) in a 9-3 win over the 2017 All-American. The Berger win strongly suggested that Pantaleo’s early season struggled were just a blip on the radar, but what he did in the finals made that a near certainty.
Sixth-ranked Micah Jordan (Ohio State) came into the title tilt having just avenged his only loss of the season, beating number five Josh Shields (Arizona State) in the semis. After a scoreless first period, Pantaleo got on the board with a takedown in the second, though a pair of Jordan escapes kept the score deadlocked. A quick escape in the third gave the Wolverine a thin margin and a stall warning with a minute and a half remaining put him on thin ice. Instead of playing defense and daring the official to make the call, Pantaleo hit a textbook knee-pull single leg then blew the match open with a four-point suck-back, narrowly missing a major decision when Jordan escaped late in the 10-3 decision. The title in Vegas was a return to the form most expected out of the 2016 All-American at 149 pounds. In his post-match interview, Pantaleo credited more footwork training for his notably better movement. Whatever it was, this was an impressive performance in a week full of them. For that, we congratulate Alec Pantaleo of Michigan on being named TOM’s College Wrestler of the Week!